Theodore Roosevelt National Park reopens
MEDORA -- Rangers woke a sleeping giant Thursday, taking down barricades and reopening Theodore Roosevelt National Park after the 16-day federal government shutdown ended.
The park closed Oct. 1 after Congress failed to pass a budget bill to keep agencies like the National Park Service up and running. It left many rangers without land to patrol, and the small town of Medora without its biggest tourist draw.
"It feels good," Chief Ranger Dean Wyckoff said on a break from taking down barricades. "We're glad we're able to open the park."
First thing Thursday morning, Wyckoff and Ranger Logan Tucker teamed up to drive around the park, taking down "Road Closed" signs, putting away traffic cones blocking overlooks and flipping closed signs to a much more welcoming message.
"That's great news," Medora Mayor Doug Ellison said. "Hopefully it'll bring a few more people our way. That's a big year-round attraction for us and it's always good to have it open."
Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said she hopes people can make it out to the park for the remaining days of autumn colors and wildlife.
Calls and cars were already coming in Thursday morning as rangers finished taking down the barricades.
After witnessing visitors being turned away from the park during the shutdown, Ellison said it's nice to be able to say the park is open again.
"On a personal note, we feel bad for those people (that were turned away)," Wyckoff said.
Tucker said he found out he could go back to work the way most Americans did -- watching CNN.
Back at the ranger office, Naylor said there's some catching up to do, returning missed calls and emails and rescheduling meetings.
Fish and Wildlife, BLM offices reopen
The Bureau of Land Management, which processes oil and gas drilling permits for federal lands, also reopened.
Maintenance issues plague some facilities because of the shutdown, but BLM hopes to be fully operational shortly, it said in a news release.
During the shutdown, more than 500 oil and gas drilling permits sat awaiting consideration in the BLM's North Dakota field office.
North Dakota's wildlife refuges also closed to the public when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services shut its doors.
Workers returned to the job Thursday and began opening wildlife facilities, like the Arrowwood, Audubon, J. Clark Salyer, Long Lake and Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuges in North Dakota.